PRIME DIRECTIVES: 1. Serve the public trust 2. Protect the innocent 3. Uphold the law 4. [CLASSIFIED]
RoboCop is a Cyber Punk franchise set Twenty Minutes into the Future in the Crapsack World version of Detroit, where the police force has been privatized and handed over to Omni Consumer Products (OCP).It all got its start with the film RoboCop (1987), directed by Paul Verhoeven. With the Detroit police force becoming more and more overwhelmed handling a near warzone of crime and corruption, OCP puts into plans to create a cyborg super-cop from the body of Officer Alex Murphy, who was violently gunned down in the line of duty. Now heavily armored, an impossibly steady hand and a computerized brain, RoboCop is a nearly unstoppable police officer. But he is ultimately a corporate public-relations creation and the soul of Murphy remains restless.What was originally thought to be a B-Movie flick became a smash hit as a gritty, ultra-violent, darkly humorous film which featured a great deal of social commentary and political satire on such subjects as capitalism, privatization, the environment and public apathy. The film worked as pure summer entertainment as well, with taut action sequences, impressive production design, and memorable characters. Its smash success spawned a series of sequels and spin-offs while providing a huge shot in the arm for the Super Hero film genre that the box-office failure of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace almost sunk in the same year.The first sequel, RoboCop 2 (1990), was even more violent and edgy than the first, going so far as to include a child as one of the primary villains. Relying too heavily on raw violence and shock value while having less of the satirical humor that defined its predecessor, the sequel was not as popular as the original film. Frank Miller wrote the original screenplay; although the script was heavily altered to fit a movie format, his influence in the themes of the film can be identified, including scenes in which a focus group attempts to make RoboCop more family-friendly (rendering him unable to do his job). Miller later turned his original vision of the film into a comic book series (Frank Miller's RoboCop).RoboCop 3 (1993) substituted the adult violence for something more tame, since the film was rated PG-13. Too mild in the action and edging into kiddie-film territory, this film bombed both financially and critically.Despite the very adult material, the character of RoboCop has the general makings of a classic Superhero Origin story, and as such, the character has appeared in at least four different incarnations on TV. In all of them, to one degree or another, the ultraviolence and corporate/political satire is stripped away in favor of superheroics and corny humor:
RoboCop: The Animated Series: Animated Adaptation, 1988. Produced by Marvel Comics for a syndicated cartoon block (notable for the fact that the funding for the 13th episode was used instead to make the 1989 X-Men pilot). Very much like the above. Also introduced a toyetic group of sidekicks called the Ultra Police. At least some of the stories were good.
RoboCop: The Series: Live action, 1994. Gave Robo a holographic woman partner, a kid sidekick, and a variety of gadgets. On the other hand, it was occasionally hysterical. "I can't believe it! He's a Milken Scholar!"
RoboCop: Alpha Commando: Animated, 1998. Which was less than well received. Filled the world with smartass AIs.
RoboCop: Prime Directives: Live-Action, Miniseries, 2000. Focused more on the franchise's dark and satirical elements as opposed to the more family friendly 1994 series. Received an ambivalent response.
Place the tropes in the list, or there will be... Trouble.
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A.I. Is a Crapshoot: ED-209; not because they're evil, but because he's very, very dumb. Subverted with RoboCop himself; he doesn't rebel against OCP because he's a cyborg, but because he regains his human memories.
Alternate Continuity: The television series' split into two (or three, depending on your view) continuities after the second film. The 1994 series and Prime Directives both ignore the events of the third film in favor of keeping OCP and the threat of bulldozing Old Detroit, although it's still unclear if the two series are meant to be tied into the same continuity (considering that one was a syndicated children's show and the other a violent homage to the original).
In the first movie, in the moments leading up to his slaughter, Boddicker takes off Murphy's helmet, but let him keep his vest. The standard issue police body armor keeps him alive long enough for the paramedics to arrive and attempt to save his life. If it wasn't for his vest, Alex wouldn't have had much of a fighting chance after being shot repeatedly at close range from sustained shotgun fire. However, the vest doesn't protect him from Boddicker putting a coup de grace in his head.
RoboCop's titanium/kevlar armor is more than adequate for protection against small arms fire and explosions, but once the armor is dented by the ED-209 heavy weapons he is slightly more vulnerable when the police are turned on him... and it's an entire crowd of cops with automatic weapons and shotguns, as well.
In the second movie RoboCop is fired at with varying degrees of man portable weaponry including a rocket launcher or two and he still keeps on going. However a .50 caliber M2 is enough to take his hand off and a jackhammer is sufficient to disassemble him (eventually). In the third film, a single round from a grenade launcher is enough to disable him.
Artistic License - Biology: When shot in the inner thigh, there's your femoral artery. You bleed, a lot. You will get dizzy almost immediately and pass out soon after. There won't be enough time for Evil Gloating. Cocaine would only hasten the process.
All those assault cannons in the first movie's climax, and RoboCop doesn't take a single hit. In general, Robo takes a lot of hits to the chest and none to that few inches of face, though there's at least one scene where he shields his face with an arm.
One of the street punks in one of the movies lampshades this, shouting "Shoot him in the mouth!" It likely wouldn't matter... Murphy's face is just a layer of flesh stuck atop his new metal cranium, getting shot there would probably only hurt his marketability.
Averted throughout the movie by other enemies, though. The confrontation with ED-209 and the subsequent arrival of the SWAT teams and police see RoboCop barely survive after being targeted mercilessly with assault cannons, machine guns, shotguns and a couple of rockets.
Murphy himself displayed this when he attempted to fire Guns Akimbo during a car chase. At a distance of less than 20 feet, he rarely even managed to hit the van, and only one of the passengers. May count as Improbable Aiming Skills, however, since he was leaning unsupported out of the window of a speeding car and shooting at a speeding van. Could lay the foundations for Robo's expert marksmanship if Murphy already had some skills as a human.
Bottomless Magazines: Nobody in these movies ever seems to reload their guns, even RoboCop and his machine pistol.note Murphy actually reloads the Auto-9 a grand total of one time in all three movies, in what is, hilariously, the scene in which he probably fires it the least.
Buddy Cop Show: Not a show, precisely, but the Murphy & Lewis dynamic held through all three movies. And unlike most Buddy Cop Show situations, they were good buddies from the start, rather than rubbing each other the wrong way.
RoboCop 3 was shot in Atlanta, using many of the buildings that would soon be torn down to make room for the facilities for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Similar to its predecessors, the 1994 TV series (and Prime Directives) use Canadian locations as a stand-in for Detroit.
Came Back Strong: Alex Murphy is killed in action and later reconstructed as an implacable crime-fighting machine.
Character Tics: Murphy had several that carried over into his cyborg persona. For example, he learned how to spin his pistol to impersonate T.J. Lazer, the hero of his son's favourite show. Upon remembering his human life his deadpan sense of humor returns.
Robo himself has a few OCP logos on him, along with an OCP-001 serial number. Plus, whenever he gets smashed up it's OCP's money that pays for the rebuild (or not).
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Practically every member of OCP, but notably Johnson (who appears in all three films). In the first film, he's an ambiguous (but generally moral) employee who advises Bob Morton and gives Murphy a "thumbs-up" sign at the end. In the second he's head of the RoboCop project and still a generally decent guy, but is willing to throw the far more amoral Dr. Faxx under the bus and participate in forging evidence to do just that. By the third, he's transformed into an unlikable douchebag who threatens to cut Sergeant Reed's pension if he doesn't comply with OCP's order to gentrify the Cadillac Heights district. He also survives the film and doesn't lose his job (unlike the CEO, who's fired at the end).
Johnson: Of course, there won't be any trouble from the dead ones. The Old Man: They'll have relatives. They always do.
Possibly subverted in the third movie. It's implied that Kanemitsu is being lied to about what's really going on in Detroit by both the remnants of OCP and The head of Rehabs. He bows his head to RoboCop at the end of the film.
Detroit. Full of crime and Corrupt Corporate Executives. It got worse when the cops went on strike in the first film, and by the time of the third film it's even worse, with people in danger of having wrecking balls tear through their house while they're still living there.
And it's not just limited to Detroit, either. In the first film, an orbiting defense satellite misfires and causes thousands of acres of forest to burn in California, killing several when it also sweeps through some homes, as well as two former US Presidents. In the second film, ED-209s are deployed in five major cities despite its continuing malfunctions; and a nuclear power plant in the Amazon goes critical, irradiating the entire rainforest.
Also from the second film, it seems that skin cancer due to the lack of ozone layer is a pretty common problem. The chemicals you can buy to protect you from that, are also highly carcinogenic!
It's also perfectly legal to purchase the MagnaVolt - when a car thief breaks into your car, the moment he sits down, shackles spring up around his arms and legs, turning the seat into an electric chair.
Deadpan Snarker: RoboCop to some extent, notably when he is usually damaged in some way or has done some damage.
Defictionalization: There is a real life company called Omni Consumer Products. They specialize in... making Defictionalized products. In a nicely full circle manner, the company's owner gave 25,000 dollars to a project seeking to build a statue of RoboCop in Detroit.
Groin Attack: While a rapist is holding his intended victim hostage RoboCop fires and hits his groin while being obscured by a skirt.
Gun Twirling: Murphy is seen practicing spinning his service pistol a few times in the first movie, a move he learned to impress his son (who saw it on a TV show). As RoboCop, it becomes his signature.
The Gunslinger: Subverted in that the human Murphy was a notably crappy shot in the first movie. About the only remotely gunslinger-like move he could pull off was the trigger-guard gun spin, and that only because he forced himself to learn it to impress his son. Robo's Improbable Aiming Skills are strictly programming (well, all except the spin).
Hand Cannon: Robo, natch, as well as many of the bad guys. Murphy's gun is a Beretta 93R fully automatic pistol, modified to look even bigger and spit foot-long flames with every three-round burst. The real Beretta 93R cannot fire in full-automatic; only single and three-round burst. According to the TV Series, it packs armor-piercing ammo, which is shown to be capable of firing through a wall, several pipes, and the metal sides of a hot tub, and still have killing power.
Heroic BSOD: Robocop has an extended one in the original film, beginning when Boddicker's henchman Emil tells him, "We killed you!!" This continues through the sequence where he returns to his abandoned home and rediscovers his identity as Murphy, not ending until he begins his Roaring Rampage of Revenge at the drug factory.
Hot Scientist: Though not the same character, the recurring female technician in the original movies with Dr. Maria Lazarus being the most notable one.
RoboCop, a classic rumination on Capitalism Is Evil, has its title character featured in a Korean advert for a chicken-frying machine. Also, the general idea behind RoboCop and the sheer amount of merchandise behind the character, to the point it becomes bizarre, as mentioned in the Misaimed Fandom section.
Lock and Load Montage: Murphy does this a few times, including before the climactic fight with Boddicker's gang in the first film.
Ludd Was Right: Averted considering that while there is some momentary concern he was going to replace them, RoboCop is soon accepted as simply a tougher comrade who can be invaluable against really dangerous stuff.
The ED-209 series in general. Autocannon and anti-tank rockets on a police robot: seemingly excessive, until we get to know this future Detroit. note The ED-209 was going to be marketed to the military after the police trial.
In RoboCop 2, Robo's Auto-9 relative to the standard-issue DPD service pistols.
Nerd Glasses: Many of OCP's staff, as well as the gas station attendant RoboCop saves from a criminal in the first film.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: RoboCop is always on the receiving end of these, putting him out of commission for awhile in every movie.
One-Man Army: Being impervious to small arms fire and wielding some incredible firepower of his own, RoboCop can just walk into a drug den and gun everyone down without breaking stride.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Daniel O'Herlihy's character in the first two movies is only known as "the Old Man". Likewise, Rip Torn's character in the third movie is only referred to as "the CEO". This also extended to the various TV series—David Gardner's character in The Series and Tedde Moore's character in Prime Directives are, respectively, referred to only as "The OCP Chairman" and "The Old Woman".
Orphaned Punchline: "I'd buy that for a dollar!" We only hear it in isolation, but the characters are familiar with the show: to them it's hilarious.
The Real Heroes: Implies with the cops depicted as brave working stiffs who have to manage an future urban war zone. As for the title character, Alex Murphy always regards himself as one of them and his comrades come to accept him as simply a tougher comrade who can safely take on the really dangerous stuff and draw their fire as his fellows maneuver for position.
Robo Cam: Numerous scenes are shown from RoboCop's POV, complete with scanlines, subtle pixelation, HUD messages and when Robo is hurt, interference. The HUD is justified, since RoboCop is technically still human and would need some information displayed to help him make decisions.
Shooting Superman: RoboCop gets this a lot. The bad guys eventually wise up in the first film and take him on with anti-tank rifles, but that doesn't stop every other dumb crook in the franchise from unloading their tiny pistols at him.
Many setting details are correct despite the films being shot elsewhere. The first was filmed in Dallas, the second was filmed in Houston, and the third was filmed in Atlanta.
The DPD precinct system — it is organized by geography not the usual precinct numbers.
The local hospitals. There really is a Henry Ford Hospital that's a Level 1 trauma center.
The neighborhoods: "Cadillac Heights" from the third movie is apparently somewhere in the old Black Bottom, across Woodward from the university district and just south of Hamtramck.
The trauma team that works on Murphy as he dies is a real trauma team, and their dialog was mostly ad-libbed. In the commentary, the writers say they wished they could have come up with a line like "Let's shock a flat line and quit."
Superhero: RoboCop is a superhero in all but name. He can get up moments after a fifteen-storey fall when his organics should be shmooshed.
Superhero Origin: Alex Murphy was a dedicated police officer until he was gunned down by Clarence Boddicker's gang. Declared legally dead he was placed into the RoboCop program to become the superhero he is today.
Super Cop: Chances are, if you mention the phrase to anyone, and they know of RoboCop, he's the first thing that they'll think of. In fact, RoboCop is called exactly that in the first film, when he first shows off his computer-enhanced aiming skills at the firing range.
Super Prototype: As a cyborg police officer, Murphy is the first attempt and the only success. This is because Murphy has just the right mindset to accept his condition.
Too Dumb to Live: Letís go all the way and call out essentially anybody who genuinely believes they can defeat a heavily armoured 100% accurate police cyborg without strength of numbers and/or heavy weaponry.
OCP's privatization in "hospitals, prisons, space exploration".
The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: One of the greatest of debates, RoboCop Versus The Terminator — who will win? An excellent graphic novel and a video game. RoboCop wins, but only because of a bizarre, but logical, time travel plot involving no less than three timeline alterations.
Unorthodox Holstering: Murphy's cool spinning trick, which he later refines as RoboCop (he can store his pistol in his leg armor).
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: OCP regards RoboCop as a piece of equipment that they own. Typical is lawyer Holzgang's utter disregard for RoboCop's agony after he's been torn apart by Cain's gang. "Nah, it's just the back-up generator making him twitch."
Weaksauce Weakness: ED-209's is stairs, with far too broad legs to manage the narrow and steep steps without toppling over. The design of the ED-209 was a lot of show and little fine tuning for both versatility and AI programming.
Dick Jones: I had a guaranteed military sale with ED-209! Renovation program. Spare parts for 25 years! Who cares if it worked or not?
Wretched Hive: Detroit. In fact, OCP has basically given up on it and is looking to tear it all down and start again with Delta City.
Call Back: For kids' show, there's an unexpected nod to Murphy's death, with a flashback to the very end of the scene, Boddicker's "Fun's over" and the final shot to Murphy's head, rendered in animation.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The show had a few Body Horror moments, such as the scene in "Doppleganger" where the clones melt. Also, in "H-2-Uh-Oh", two of the characters had a literal moment of scenery nudity (namely because of a chemical that turned them into living puddles, and obviously their clothes can't be worn by living puddles). And this was all in what was supposed to be a kids program!
Mugged for Disguise: The episode "H-2-Uh-Oh" features a villainess who can turn herself into water. While infiltrating a military base, her powers wear off, and she reverts to her (completely unclothed) human form. She spots a guard exiting the ladies' room and tackles her back inside. Punching sounds are heard, and the villainess walks out of the restroom in her newly appropriated clothes.
X Meets Y: RoboCop meets Inspector Gadget in both premise (RoboCop going around the world, fighting an international criminal organization) and literally (Robo having a lot more gadgets built into him than normal, including some nonsensical ones for a cyborg designed to enforce the law to have).
"Nice shooting, son. What's your name?" "...Murphy."